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Bartram, William (09 April 1739–22 July 1823), naturalist, artist, and explorer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Bartram, a naturalist, and Ann Mendenhall. Unlike his father, who was essentially self-taught, William Bartram benefited from a rigorous formal education at the Philadelphia Academy, where he studied history, Latin, French, and the classics. From an early age, however, his overriding interest was in nature. He spent much of his time as a young man traveling with his father to collect and draw plants and other specimens for John Bartram’s overseas patrons and scientific correspondents....

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Bates, Marston (23 July 1906–03 April 1974), naturalist and educator, was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the son of Glen F. Bates, a farmer and horticulturist, and Amy Mabel Button. In 1916 his father moved the family to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where young Bates was reared. An only child in a rather isolated environment, he developed an interest in insects (he collected butterflies) and an ambition to visit the tropics. He earned a B.S. in biology at the University of Florida in 1927....

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John Burroughs Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99738).

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John Burroughs In his cabin, “Slabsides.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103950).

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Burroughs, John (03 April 1837–29 March 1921), naturalist and author, was born in Roxbury, New York, the son of Chauncey A. Burroughs and Amy Kelly, farmers. He attended district schools in Roxbury and later studied briefly at two academies in Upstate New York. He became a teacher in 1854, at the age of seventeen, and for the next decade he taught in rural schools in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. He studied medicine for a few months with a physician in Tangore, New York, where he met Ursula North, a farmer’s daughter. The two married in 1857; they adopted one child, born in 1878 to a woman with whom Burroughs had an extramarital affair (his wife did not learn of the child’s paternity until several years later). During the 1850s Burroughs discovered the Transcendentalist writings of ...

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Holder, Charles Frederick (05 August 1851–10 October 1915), naturalist and sportsman, was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Bassett Holder and Emily Augusta Gove. He entered but did not graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. Influenced by his father’s interest in natural sciences, Holder became an assistant curator of zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, where he worked from 1871 to 1875....

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Miller, Harriet Mann (25 June 1831–25 December 1918), author and naturalist, known by the pseudonym Olive Thorne Miller, was born in Auburn, New York, the daughter of Seth Hunt Mann, a banker, and Mary Field Holbrook. During her youth she lived in Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri and was educated in private schools....

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John Muir Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-52000).

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Muir, John (21 April 1838–24 December 1914), naturalist, conservationist, and writer, was born in Dunbar, Scotland, the son of Daniel Muir and Anne Gilrye, farmers. He was educated in Dunbar’s common school and by his father’s insistence that he memorize a Bible chapter every day. With his father and two siblings, John migrated to Wisconsin in 1849; the rest of the family soon followed. On the family’s homestead near Portage, Daniel worked John, just entering his teens, as if he were an adult field hand, inflicting corporal punishment; John Muir later believed that this hard farm labor stunted his growth. The boy’s escape was to devour every book that he came across, and when his father forbade his reading at night, he devised a sort of wooden alarm clock attached to his bed. This “early-rising machine” awakened him very early in the morning, and he would read until it was time for his exhausting chores....

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Ord, George (04 March 1781–24 January 1866), naturalist, writer, and lexicographer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of George Ord, a retired sea captain who in 1798 became a ship chandler and rope maker, and Rebecca Lindemeyer. Educated in Philadelphia, Ord devoted himself from an early age to the study of science and literature. He entered his father’s rope-making business in 1800 and continued the business after his father’s death in 1806; he retired from the business in 1829 to devote more time to his avocational interests. In 1804 Ord married Margarette Biays, with whom he had three children, only one of whom survived infancy....

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Peattie, Donald Culross (21 June 1898–16 November 1964), naturalist and writer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Robert Burns Peattie, a journalist, and Elia Wilkinson Peattie, a writer and literary critic for the Chicago Tribune. From an early age Peattie suffered from various respiratory ailments and turned to books for consolation; his interest in nature was kindled by an extended visit during his childhood to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, where he was sent to improve his health. As a teenager he wrote poetry with the encouragement of his mother, a published novelist. He was educated at the University of Chicago's Laboratory School, and after completing secondary schooling there in 1916 he went on to study French at the university....

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Ernest Thompson Seton With Blackfoot Indians, starting a fire with bow and stick, 1917. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115320).

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Seton, Ernest Thompson (14 August 1860–23 October 1946), naturalist, artist, writer, and lecturer, was born Ernest Evan Thompson in South Shields, England, the son of Joseph Logan Thompson, a businessman, and Alice Snowden. Joseph Thompson claimed famous Scottish ancestry, including a title, never legally established, deriving from the fifth earl of Winton, Lord Seton. Ernest legally adopted the surname Seton in 1901....

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Teale, Edwin Way (02 June 1899–18 October 1980), naturalist and writer, was born Edwin Alfred Teale in Joliet, Illinois, the son of Oliver Cromwell Teale, a railroad mechanic who had emigrated from England as a youth, and Clara Louise Way, a teacher. His interest in nature developed early in childhood during summer vacations at his maternal grandfather’s farm, “Lone Oak,” in the dune country of northern Indiana, and he began keeping a notebook of observations of wildlife, especially insects. While still in elementary school he decided upon a career as a nature writer, and at the age of twelve he changed his middle name to Way because he thought it sounded more appropriate for his chosen profession....

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Mabel Osgood Wright. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102414).

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Wright, Mabel Osgood (26 January 1859–16 July 1934), naturalist and author, was born in New York City, the daughter of Samuel Osgood, a Unitarian minister, and Ellen Haswell Murdock. Her father, a member of William Cullen Bryant’s literary circle, was the pastor of the Church of the Messiah in New York City from 1849 to 1869, after which he entered the Episcopal ministry. ...